Review: The Light Between Oceans

Not one car chase. Not one shootout. Only a glorious film that deals with conscience, the consequences of violating one’s conscience when swayed by love for another, a willingness to suffer on behalf of the one you love even when misunderstood by that loved one, and the spiritual release that comes from confession and forgiveness. Put that all together and combine it with stunning visual beauty and superb acting, and you have one of the most compelling movies I’ve seen in some time.

Light Between Oceans

While I like a lot of movies—after all, my undergraduate degree was in radio, tv, and film production—only rarely do I leave a theater thinking as deeply as I did after viewing The Light Between Oceans.

Bare bones plot:

An emotionally scarred Australian man returns from WWI seeking solitude, so he takes a lonely job as the only person on a small island tending a very important lighthouse situated between the Pacific and Indian oceans.

A young woman who has lost both of her brothers in the war helps him come to grips with his war experience, they marry, and now the two of them are the only inhabitants of that island.

The marriage is healing for both of them but she suffers from two miscarriages, thereby creating emotional trauma for both. Then a small boat washes ashore. In it is a dead man and a newborn baby girl needing love and care. Do they try to find out if there is a mother somewhere or do they take the child and raise her themselves?

The decision they make leads to the litany I described above: matters of conscience, sacrifice, and forgiveness.

I won’t go any further in laying out the plot. If you have been looking for a film that demonstrates the love of God and love for another, a film that forces people to grapple with heartbreaking decisions and whether to forgive, let me suggest that this is the film for you.

Christian faith is an important element in the story. Ultimate decisions are based on that faith. Needless to say, I heartily recommend The Light Between Oceans.

Trump, Principles, & Conscience

When I first began this blog eight years ago, it didn’t take me long to decide on a title. My life and teaching have always focused on Biblical principles. My desire was to share those principles and to apply them to what we experience in this trek through a sinful world. That’s how the name “Pondering Principles” came about.

With that name, though, came a deep responsibility to remain true to the principles I believe the Lord has ordained. I’ve thought a lot about what I want to say right now with respect to the upcoming presidential contest. What I’m going to say will not sit well with many, but I will say it because it comes from that commitment I made to speak and write from those principles.

I’ve always voted Republican, no matter how much I’ve disagreed with the chosen nominee for president. Despite some misgivings over George Bush, I believed he was a good man, trying to do what was right. The John Kerry alternative gave me nightmares.

When John McCain got the nomination, I sighed and dutifully fell in line because I knew Barack Obama would be the most radical president in American history and would attempt to undo every constitutional precept that he could. At least McCain had shown remarkable courage as a POW and could be counted on for some conservative policies. There really was no comparison between the candidates.

Mitt Romney was, for me, a step further away from genuine Republican principles. After all, it was his health plan in Massachusetts that provided the blueprint for Obamacare. Neither had he been solidly pro-life. But the alternative, of course, was another four years of Obama, and I did believe Romney was a decent man who could be prodded in the right direction by conservatives in the party.

Now, in 2016, I don’t have a decent man to vote for on the Republican side. And that’s really what it comes down to for me. I have a lot of reasons to decide not to vote for Donald Trump, but the most basic one is that I see him as a totally despicable human being who may do irreparable harm to both the Republican party and the nation.

Please stay with me.

For those of you supporting Trump because he is an outsider, consider his personal history. He has been on the inside his entire life, using all his political connections for personal gain, often to the detriment of others. This is something he and Hillary Clinton have in common: they have used the system cynically and corruptly for their own advancement.

Crony Capitalists

Clinton’s corruption is clearly seen in multiple ways, but the investigation into the use of a personal e-mail server and the funneling of funds through the Clinton Foundation are the real icing on this half-baked cake.

Trump’s corruption is in how he has bilked people over the years (interesting, isn’t it, that the trial for the fake Trump University has now been delayed until late November), how he has attempted to use eminent domain to take private property away from an elderly lady to use for his own purposes, and how he has cleverly used the bankruptcy laws to stay on top while throwing others out of work.

Yes, they are a dynamic duo.

Bratman

On policy, he is all over the place, promising whatever will get votes. Now that he has the nomination all but sewed up, he’s tacking clearly to the left, saying he wants to get the Bernie Sanders voters.

This is our Republican nominee?

He claims to be pro-life now, but has always supported abortion, even the infanticide of partial-birth abortion. Even now, he hasn’t really opposed Planned Parenthood. It pains me to read of some pro-life leaders now being swayed into the illusion that he won’t be that bad on this issue after all.

I could go on about all his other “policies,” but the real issue for me is Trump’s character.

Unlike some people who only glance at headlines, I am a student of politics and government and the connection with character. I’ve watched Trump carefully for the past year, hardly believing what I’ve seen.

He has no dignity. His main avenue for personal opinion is insulting tweets. He has mocked and ridiculed his fellow candidates mercilessly. He is beyond rude; he is an arrogant, condescending, unprincipled mess of a man.

He is the classic spoiled child who never grew up. Putting him at the head of this nation, in my view, would be tantamount to elevating into power someone with the emotional maturity of a third-grader.

The planted fake story in the National Enquirer about Ted Cruz being an unfaithful husband is ironic, given Trump’s blatant immorality. The photo he used of Heidi Cruz is what a middle-school guy might do in a pique of adolescent rage.

And then there are the conspiracy theories he seems to delight in: Obama’s birth certificate (sorry, but I never bought into that one, as much as I would have liked to); George Bush somehow behind 9/11 and deliberately lying to get us into a war with Iraq; Cruz’s father as a co-conspirator in the JFK assassination.

Really, Republicans? This is your standard-bearer?

And after all of this, you call upon me to support this man for the sake of unity?

Time for Unity

And then you have the nerve to lecture me that if I don’t vote for this awful person, I am, in effect, casting a vote for Hillary?

A vote is a vote for something or someone. If I cast a vote for Donald Trump, I am saying I am for an unrepentant serial adulterer (possibly a rapist—that accusation is out there and not too hard to believe) who has always championed leftist causes with his donations, and who, even now, is pulling the wool over the eyes of his starry-eyed minions.

No, I cannot do this.

If Hillary Clinton wins this election, I place the blame on those who ignorantly raised this reality-TV “star” into a credible candidate when the joke of his candidacy should have been apparent to all. Those of us who sounded the alarm all along are not the ones who deserve the blame for his ascendancy.

Many Republicans are now falling in line with the reality of a Trump nomination. They are dutifully remaining loyal to the party.

Next Trick

I will not put party loyalty above principle. In the end, I don’t give an account to Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus, or Trump supporters who will try to convince me to change my mind.

In the end, I give an account to God only, and my conscience must be clear before Him.

There are people I love and respect who will disagree with me today. That doesn’t alter my love and respect for you.

If your conscience doesn’t bother you by voting for Trump, that is your decision. But please don’t call on me to violate my conscience. I simply won’t do it.

A Matter of Conscience

Last Friday, I commented on the withdrawal of Louie Giglio from praying the benediction at the upcoming Obama inaugural. My goal was to point out the intolerance on the Left toward evangelicals who view homosexuality as a sin. We are to be considered “haters” and fringe elements in American society.

I want to revisit that story again, but from a different angle. One question I didn’t raise earlier was whether Giglio should have agreed to participate in the inaugural. One naturally would be honored to be asked to such a high-profile event, but is it wise to be part of something that celebrates another four years of Obama’s rule? I realize Christians will differ in their views of this, but let me state the case for what I have concluded, at least with respect to my conscience.

There is, in my mind, a distinct difference that can be made between the personal and the public in this instance. As a Christian, I want everyone to come to the knowledge of the truth, and I will take any opportunity afforded me to reach out to anyone with the gospel message. That includes even those who have done their best to undermine that truth. So if I were ever asked—and this is a stretch, I know—to a meeting with President Obama that was private, either one-on-one or with a small group of some kind—I would accept that invitation readily. We have to take advantage of all open doors to allow the Holy Spirit to touch the hearts of those who need redemption.

However, if I were invited instead to do what Giglio was invited to do—give the benediction at Obama’s inaugural—I would probably decline. Why? If I were on the platform with President Obama, it would appear as if I am in support of his policies. Public perception is very important. There are a lot of low-information voters out there who, without checking out the particulars, would simply assume I was an Obama supporter. Therefore, I would be linked unfairly to the following Obama policies and beliefs:

  • Obama’s all-out promotion of abortion on demand. He is the most pro-abortion president in American history, even rejecting, when he was an Illinois state senator, a bill that would have allowed doctors and nurses to give medical aid to a child born alive during an attempted abortion. That is radicalism to the extreme, and I would never want to be associated with that. During his first presidential term, he also vociferously promoted continued funding of Planned Parenthood, which is the foremost provider of abortion in the nation. The latest statistics reveal that Planned Parenthood helped bring about 333,000 abortions in a recent year, a new record for that organization. This is horrific, and I must, in conscience, distance myself publicly from anyone who holds such extreme views.
  • Obamacare, which I loathe as an engine of tyrannical governmental control over individuals, now is the vehicle by which Christian organizations are being persecuted for their beliefs in the area of abortion. The HHS mandates are attempting to force Christian colleges and businesses to offer abortifacient drugs and other means for furthering abortion in their healthcare plans. This is an outright attack on the First Amendment’s promise of liberty of conscience with respect to religious belief.
  • Obama’s decision to promote homosexuality, not only as a legitimate lifestyle with no moral repugnance, but beyond that, his espousal of same-sex marriage. No president has ever promoted this false concept of marriage, and it is just as dangerous to the health of our society as his approval of abortion. In both cases, the family, as understood Biblically, is undermined.
  • His total lack of concern for the constitutional constraints on presidential power, as he now prepares to run the country via unconstitutional executive orders.
  • His complete rejection of any genuine fiscal discipline, seeking to be granted unlimited authority to add to the nation’s debt as much as he chooses, bypassing Congress. Both this power play and the one mentioned just above it are the fruit of his overall Marxist and anti-colonial mindset, both of which see the United States as an oppressor and its Constitution as an outdated document no longer applicable to the socialist vision of the future.

For these and many other reasons I could list, I would not in any way want my presence on a stage with the president to be misinterpreted as a show of support. I can pray for the nation quite well privately; I don’t have to be the public face of blessing on the next four years of antichristian rhetoric and action.

As I said earlier, I know there are those who will disagree with my conclusion, but I have to abide by my conscience before God, and to accept the invitation Louie Giglio originally accepted would be, at least for me, a public renunciation of my most deeply held beliefs. In good conscience, I could never do it.

Christians are going to be faced with many more decisions like these. How are we going to respond? Will we stand firm on what we know to be true? As long as we are always willing to share the truth with anyone who is open to it, and as long as we conduct ourselves in the proper spirit, I believe God will honor our strong stand.

Voting Republican with a Clear Conscience

Now that Mitt Romney is the official Republican nominee for president, it’s time I shared a few thoughts on why I believe I can support him. As many of you know, he was not my first choice. He wasn’t even my second or third. In fact, as the primary season began, I pointed to two people as non-starters for me as the potential Republican nominee: Donald Trump and Romney.

During the primaries, I had flirtations with a couple of the candidates before settling on Rick Santorum as my favorite. My reasons for supporting Santorum were his basic Biblical worldview and his well-reasoned philosophy of governing. When the primaries ended, I had to come to grips with the reality that Romney would be the choice.

His deficiencies remain, as far as I’m concerned. I suspect he’s not a genuine conservative philosophically—that he doesn’t have a settled, principled position—and even though some will not like this, I am not enamored with a Mormon in the White House. I’m one of those who sees Mormonism as a deviation from Christian orthodoxy. However, a number of our presidents have not been Christians, despite their public avowals of faith. What’s worse, a Mormon or an adherent to a radical liberation theology that pictures Jesus as little more than the first Che Guevara? We already have that in our current president.

Yet while Romney is not my ideal candidate, he does represent a political party that is much closer to my ideals. Generally, the Republicans want what I want: basic moral values that emanate from Biblical roots, revealing itself through opposition to abortion and in favor of traditional marriage; the government limited to its proper functions; a free market economy; a national debt brought under control; a strong foreign policy stance that stands by its allies and has no problem recognizing its enemies. This is the vision of the role of government that I wish to see implemented.

Some say the Republicans are no different than the Democrats. I disagree. The platforms for the parties spell out the clear distinctions. Others, more nuanced, insist that Republicans are the lesser of two evils, but since they are evil as well, it would be wrong to vote for them. These are the purists who claim that you can find a political party with no hint of hypocrisy and devoid of evil. I say that’s impossible in this world. Wherever men congregate to make politics, disagreements, envy, egocentrism, and all sorts of evils will arise.

If I turn to the Libertarian party, for instance, what I see is a group with which I can agree on free-market issues but not on the social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. Pure libertarianism is not Christian; rather than liberty, it promotes license in some instances. While there may be a minor party out there with which I could align, I want to support a party that has a chance to turn Obama and the Democrats out of power completely. The only party that can accomplish that is the Republicans.

You see, I don’t expect utopia from any governmental leadership. If Republicans take control of both the White House and the Congress, I will be able to find policies they are promoting with which I disagree. But they will not lead us down the same path the Democrats have taken. They will not embark on a national healthcare scheme; they will not push abortion on demand; they will defend genuine marriage; and if they know what’s good for them, they will start digging us out of our fiscal disaster.

Romney’s choice of Ryan as his VP has made my decision more palatable. Ryan, I believe, is the real deal when it comes to realizing we are on the edge of a precipice and must reverse course immediately. I agree with Romney’s first decision—his choice of a running mate. I hope it portends well for future decisions.

Supporting a third party, especially the Libertarians, may draw enough votes away from the Republicans that we will be subjected to another four years of a radical presidency, years from which we may never recover. I’m not violating my conscience by voting Republican; I’m following my conscience. In politics, you rarely get the luxury of voting for someone who is precisely what you want. You have to go with the best you can get with a party that actually has a chance to win.

I compare this to the issue of abortion specifically. Personally, I want all abortions to be declared illegal. No innocent lives should ever be taken. Yet I will support any measure that reduces the number of abortions. There are those who won’t support what they call “halfway” measures; they want all or nothing. They will get nothing. And the abortion rate will continue unchecked.

I vote not to achieve perfection, but to move the political culture closer to the Biblical ideal. Any movement away from what we now have is a movement in the right direction. That’s why I can vote Republican with a clear conscience.

More from the Virginia Declaration of Rights

Yesterday I highlighted some of the key concepts in the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason in 1776. Mason also included some interesting phrases in that Declaration. When you get to the end of it, he offers some memorable comments.

For instance, Section 15 says, “That no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.”

I like that one. Why? First, it concentrates on character. Mason is saying that liberty is not automatic; rather, to achieve it and to maintain it, the people must have certain character qualities. Second, he refers to fundamental principles. The only way to stay on course is to remember the basic truths that govern the universe. Too many politicians—and the general public—today don’t even think about principles. They seek political advantage, not truth.

He then added Section 16, which states, “That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.”

This section is a recognition that a state-approved religion is unacceptable. Civil government has no business setting up an official religion that all people must follow. Our relationship to God is outside the purview of state power. We must follow our conscience in that relationship, and no one else can be our conscience on that matter. Now some may think Mason was pushing for religion to be removed from the public square, but that was never his intent. Notice the final part: each person has a duty to practice “Christian” love toward others. Mason fully expected that Christianity would be the bedrock faith of the nation, and he expected individuals to act like Christians in their relations to others.

As I said in yesterday’s post, these Founders understood government. I’ll add this today: they understood it better than most of our current crop of legislators, executives, and judges. When I was working on my doctoral degree in history, I was always amazed by the attitude of professors who believed that we know so much more than people from 200 years ago.

No, we don’t.